In Their Name coalition formed

Wednesday, September 19th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

There is an effort in Tulsa to reassure Muslims and Arabs who may fear harassment in the wake of the attack on America. News on Six reporter Glenda Silvey visited a local Islamic Mosque.

While there have been isolated reports of hate crimes against Muslims and Arabs nationwide, the people who worship here say that's not their experience. They’re touched by an outpouring of support from the Tulsa area, including a new coalition formed today by a Sand Springs Police Officer. Officer Mike McPherson: "If you are a Muslim or Middle Eastern American living here in Tulsa, you are in no way alone." Mike McPherson is concerned about reports of harassment against Muslims and Arabs, including one in Sand Springs, where he's a police officer. "If all I was seeing on TV were the bad things about people hating me and cursing me and beating my friends and telling me that I should go home, I would probably be very frightened and feel very alone."

That's why McPherson has organized a group called "In Their Name" Coalition -- to protect people of Middle Eastern descent against backlash from the terrorist attack. "If you need us to guard you while you pray or escort you to and from the grocery store, or visit you at your business, we are ready standing by ready to take your calls." Sheryl Siddiqui, Islamic Society of Tulsa: "We're hearing that they're very insecure in Tulsa even though we're working with the FBI and Tulsa Police and their Hate Crimes Division."

Siddiqui doesn't know yet whether Muslims and Arabs will take advantage of McPherson's offer for help. "But the fact that we can make them feel secure in a place where they should feel secure, that's the gold mine in this organization.”

Tulsa businessman Mike Batman, who immigrated from Syria 20 years ago, at first shared the fear that some others feel. "But then I have noticed that people's support has been overwhelming -- everybody coming here shaking my hand, telling me if you need anything, we are here for you, we love you, we're proud that you're here." Batman says other Middle Eastern friends tell him they're receiving the same support. "I just want to say I'm proud to be an American.”

McPherson says he's already received calls from more than one hundred people who want to join the "In Their Name Coalition." Here are the numbers to call, 284-4874 or 592-3206.